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Pool of Radiance

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Reviewed by The Aardvark Pool of Radiance is an NES adaptation of a popular computer game of the same name. This game is based on the rules and character classes from the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons role-playing games. If you are interested in getting a feel for AD&D, or just like NES RPG's, then I recommend you try Pool of Radiance. The basic format of the game is that you select up to 5 adventurers, either pre-made or hand-made, to take into the city of Phlan and the surrounding regions. Your goal is not immediately apparent, so you must go about gathering information, building up strength, and exploring the city streets for treasure, clues, and enemies. This game offers a wide variety of character classes and races to choose from, including clerics, mages, fighters, thieves, and muli-class types. This game features 3D mazes, but in combat you see your party from above, much like battle in the Ultima series.

Graphics 3 out of 5

The graphics were very blocky, and the range of color was limited. The walls of the city and mazes did not look very realistic, but the graphics were adequate enough that you could navigate and carry out your quest. One neat aspect of the graphics was that characters in the shops and taverns were animated and looked like they were talking to you when you met them.

Music and Sound 3 out of 5

Sound effects were adequate, again enough sound something like what action you were taking. The music was very simple but not repetitive or irritating, the battle music was quite energetic and gave you a feel for battle. Other than this, there isn't much to say about the sound effects.

Game Challenge 5 out of 5

There were plenty of battles in this game, and many traps to overcome, people to meet, and information to gather. The characters you choose will have a bearing on your outcome, since you may need certain classes to overcome certain obstacles (i.e. if you encounter a trap you'll need a thief to disarm it). I found this game a bit bewildering at first since there is so much to explore and very few hints from the manual as to where to go first. You basically had to be very persistent, clever and attentive to pick up what you had to do.

Game Play-Fun 5 out of 5

This game is very different from other RPG's such as Dragon Warrior or Final Fantasy. The overhead view during battles was cool since it allowed you to strategies by moving your players into positions where they could attack, hide or cast spells at the enemy. I really liked the fact that this game was "open"; you could pretty much explore as you wished, and there is no one solution to the quest. This contrasts markedly with any other NES RPG I've played, where there are typically barriers to progress that must be overcome in sequence. What was really neat was that your party could "parley" (talk) to bands of monsters, or people you meet, to avoid battle, find out information, or trade items. You could even choose what tone of voice (angry, meek, etc.) to negotiate in!! This added a dimension of reality to the game. Another fun aspect of the game was that there was a large range of spells and weapons for you to buy, find, and experiment with. You didn't have to save up oodles of gold to buy what you needed, so you could get on with the game!


My only frustration was the lack of an automap!! I always get lost without one... :)

Replayability 5 out of 5

Since there was more than one way to win this game, you can play again and again, exploring different places or trying different classes in your party. Although the basic quest remains the same, the variations are limitless!!

Game Value 5 out of 5

I got this game from a second-hand store for $5.00, I'd pay a lot more though. This game is very rare, but worth it if you can get a copy. I believe there is a emu/rom version of it if you can't find the cartridge.

Comparison with original 4.5 out of 5

This game compares very well with the computer version, with a similar look and feel to the city and battles. Parts of the plot are a bit shortened in the NES version, and I think the city is smaller, as is the selection of character types and weapons. This is typical of NES adaptations, but I don't feel it weakened the game at all. The gameplay was very similar to the board-game version of AD&D.

Overall 8.5 out of 10

Pool of Radiance is a unique and very entertaining RPG that can be enjoyed by RPG enthusiasts and beginners as well. Despite the average graphics and sound, the game is very well laid out and has a depth just not present in other NES games that I've played.

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